Aycock dominates ECC 3-A tennis
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 14, 2005 2:11 PM
SNOW HILL -- "Wanna score? Ace me!!!"
Charles B. Aycock's tennis players have worn gray T-shirts promoting that confidence throughout the season and not many opponents -- nor teams, for that matter -- have answered the challenge.
Such was the case Thursday afternoon. The Golden Falcons swept the singles and doubles championships in the inaugural Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference tournament contested on the Snow Hill Tennis Complex courts.
C.B. Aycock's Raychel Batts breezed past Wilson Hunt senior Andrea Michalak 6-1, 6-2 in the singles final. Teammates Carlyn Claiborne-Laine Purcell survived shaky play late in the second set and turned back Wilson Beddingfield's Wendy Letchworth-Danielle Narron 6-1, 6-4 in the doubles title match.
"I was excited for our players to come away with both the singles and doubles championships," said veteran C.B. Aycock coach Luke Vail. "The conference tournament was a positive experience for all of our players."
Batts (18-0) reached the finals with a 6-0, 6-0 decision against Hunt's Rainey Wallace. Michalak, a four-year starter at No. 1 singles for Hunt, knocked off Southern Wayne freshman Tara Hirsch 6-2, 6-2.
Batts dominated first-set play and kept Michalak moving from corner to corner on the baseline. Michalak had little answer for Batts' crisp forehand volleys and consistent backhand strokes. She lost three service breaks during that stretch.
In the second set, Michalak struggled on serve. Two double faults coupled with Batts' backhand winner down the line gave Batts a 3-1 lead. The errors put Michalak's title hopes in jeopardy.
Batts ripped back-to-back winners, one down the line and the other cross court, to take a 4-1 lead. Michalak pulled within 4-2, but Batts reclaimed her three-game advantage at 5-2 when Michalak mishit a chip volley wide.
Michalak's serving troubles resurfaced in the final game. Three double faults allowed Batts to reach championship point. The two volleyed before Michalak hit a defensive lob past the baseline.
"Raychel did a great job of controlling the pace of the match and keeping Andrea on the defensive with deep, penetrating ground strokes and sharp cross-court angles," said Vail. "She did a good job of moving her serve around and keeping her concentration throughout the match. She continues to amaze me at the way she can raise the level of her play against a quality opponent like Andrea.
"Raychel was outstanding."
Claiborne-Purcell (10-0) breezed through their opening set with the precision of a Timex watch. The duo communicated well, converted a majority of their first serves and forced Letchworth-Narron into some hitting errors.
Letchworth-Narron regrouped and started attacking the net more in the second set. The result led to unforced errors by Aycock and a 3-3 tie.
Claiborne served a love game to make it 4-3. Purcell dropped a well-placed volley in the alley and Beddingfield's return landed in the net on game point, which put Aycock up 5-3.
The Bruins climbed within 5-4 before Claiborne-Purcell captured their first-ever conference tournament championship.
"Carlyn and Laine played a tactically solid match and did the things you need to do to be successful in a championship match -- keep unforced errors to a minimum," said Vail. "We hit consistent ground strokes and service returns, and kept the ball away from the net player.
"I was happy for Carlyn and Laine because they have just been playing together for the last half of the season, but they are really starting to click as a team."
Batts, Claiborne-Purcell and Nicole Taylor-Lizzie Sodoma have qualified for the N.C. High School Athletic Association eastern individual regionals next weekend in Wilson. Joining them will be Eastern Wayne's duo of Lauren Bynum-Casie Musgrave and Hirsch.
Hirsch is just the third player to advance to regionals during Brad Matthews' tenure at Southern Wayne. Anna Stoppelbein qualified for singles as a sophomore and returned the following year with Kelly Sasser in doubles.
First-round, single-elimination matches begin Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. at Barton College.
C.B. Aycock (16-1) and Wilson Hunt (14-5) each return to action next Tuesday in the NCHSAA dual-team playoffs. The Golden Falcons, the 2004 eastern runners-up, play host to the Coastal Conference runner-up. Hunt travels to archrival Wilson Fike.
2005 Class 3-A
Eastern Carolina Conference
Women's Tennis Tournament
(at Snow Hill Tennis Complex)
Raychel Batts (C.B. Aycock) d. Rainey Wallace (Hunt) 6-0, 6-0; Andrea Michalak (Hunt) d. Tara Hirsch (So. Wayne) 6-2, 6-2.
Batts d. Michalak 6-1, 6-2.
Carlyn Claiborne-Laine Purcell (CBA) d. Wendy Letchworth-Danielle Narron (Beddingfield) 6-1, 6-4.
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